Good morning honored platform guests, honored faculty, honored 2012 graduates, family and friends. I am delighted and humbled to stand here in front of you and share my experiences at North Lake College. So who is this girl standing in front of you? Well, as you can see, I am a typical nerdy Asian girl with glasses who makes straight A’s. But like anyone else, I am a normal college girl who struggles with life’s challenges, who procrastinates about almost everything, and who goes crazy with friends once in a while. Now, I would like to share with you how I started my years at North Lake, the experiences I have been through, and the lessons I have learned.
Two years ago, when I first came to the United States to attend North Lake College, it was not my intent to be a leader at school or to pursue my associate’s degree. North Lake College was my last option after not receiving large enough scholarships from any of the universities I applied to. So, my plan was to simply earn credits and transfer. During my first semester, since I did not have a job and I did not know anyone yet, out of boredom I started to attend meetings for several school organizations. In those meetings, I was quiet, shy, and intimidated by my peers. It was the first time for me to be in such a diverse and multiethnic environment. I was definitely not ready to take on any serious responsibility as a leader nor did I trust in myself to do anything great.
However, things changed drastically last winter when I was appointed to be a team leader of a project for the Student Government Association. I still remember that meeting with Dr. Gabriel Bach. He was asking us a question about the project, and since no one was responding, I gathered my courage and spoke up. The next thing I knew, I was appointed as the team leader. I was so afraid and was freaking out! I had no idea what I was supposed to do. However, given that I did not want to be perceived as a quitter, I saw no option but to stay as the team leader. I started to learn about the project and assumed responsibility for it. Stepping out of my comfort zone and going from being an observer to an active leader was daunting. I had to fight my insecurity, trust in myself, and lead the team in the right direction. By the end of the project, I had gained self-confidence and improved my ability to lead others.
This confidence led me to consider running for an officer position in Phi Theta Kappa. Initially, running for president was not my first choice or even a consideration. When my close friends encouraged me to run for president, I thought it was absurd and impossible. Being the president was a huge responsibility, since our school’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter has been one of the most distinguished chapters internationally for many years. I did not want to be the first president to fail the legacy of the chapter. After fighting with my inner fear and self-doubt, with the support of my friends and advisors, I ran for the position and won the presidency. It was a risk and an adventure to take on this endeavor. From day one, I felt the huge responsibility on my shoulders and was filled with fear and frustration. Project after project, through struggles and tears, I saw myself transforming into a bolder leader, confidently leading the team. With the guidance and support of my advisors and my officer team, I was able to complete my presidency and our chapter became the sixth finalist out of 1300 chapters in the world.
Preparing for this speech gave me the opportunity to look back and reflect on my two years at North Lake. I was surprised to find how my experiences at North Lake College shifted the focus of my life. Most of my decisions and hard work during the beginning of these two years were to live up to the expectations of other people. As a traditional Asian girl, since I was very young I lived to fulfill and exceed the expectations of my parents, teachers, and society, so that I was not considered a failure and did not shame them. This focus, to satisfy the people around me, slowly started to change as I got more involved in service projects.
Most of the projects in Phi Theta Kappa were to meet the needs of society and to serve the community. As student leaders, we served the college and the student body by informing them about the benefits of completing an associate’s degree, which you all did! You all are Awesome! As college students, we mentored high school students, motivated them, and informed them the resources available to go to college. As members of the Irving community, we helped make Irving a cleaner city. Previously the focus for my life was directed toward me and how people perceived me, but now I have learned to be a true servant leader and to have an influence on the society. The shift in my focus freed me from the overwhelming need to please others. My new focus of serving the community expanded my horizons and allowed me to see my true potential. This passion to serve inspired me to choose social work as my major. I desire to help and touch as many lives as possible as a social worker.
Now, I want to congratulate all the graduates today. Congratulations! You all have made a commitment and completed your degree. You all are completers and winners! The diploma that you will receive is not easily earned and it is very well deserved. Graduation is not the end, but the beginning of the rest of your life. I want to ask you and challenge you to use your talent to serve people and society. For those of you who are already serving the community around you, continue being a great influence. Life is too short to live for just one person, live for as many people as possible. Influence them to achieve their goals as you have.
Before I end my speech, I would like to thank the college administration, all the faculty and staff, dear family and friends for your dedication to our success. Without your love and support, the Class of 2012 would not have been able to make it this far. Thank you! Personally, I would like to thank my Phi Theta Kappa advisors Dr. Romero and William Videtto, my Student Life family, Ms. Virginia, Ms. Beth, Ms. Drena, Debra, and Emilie, and my dear friends. Your consistent guidance and encouragement have led me to become who I am today. I would also like to thank my family back in Korea and other parts of the world who always supported me with prayers and long distance phone calls. Last but not least, I would like to thank my family who are here with me, my aunt’s family. Thank you for accepting me, encouraging me, loving and caring for me as if I’m your own daughter. I love you all.
Today, I shared with you my journey and how I became a servant leader. So, my fellow graduates! We all did it! Now let’s all take that next step of being a service to society. Congratulations Class of 2012!